Thursday, December 31, 2009

More homemade Christmas...

Handknit socks for teen. There was an appreciaitve oh! when he put them on and then he wore them three days straight. His birthday is this month so I will make him another pair and maybe they won't be so ripe when they hit the laundry basket;)
I made this pencil case for the teen. He is an aspiring artist. His pencils were kept in a tin. I thought that if he had the case he could take them with his sketch book when he goes for wanders.
I made a couple of draft snakes for my aunt and my friend Louise. These were very fun to make. I used scraps of fabric I had in my stash.
This was the best handmade Christmas present. The wee one and I found this wooden truck at the GoodWill last spring. It was dirty, its bumper looked like a dog had chewed it and it was missing its back wheels. All summer and fall it sat on Hubby's work bench. Hubby wanted to fix it up for him but time and circumstance conspired to keep it gathering dust on the bench. Hubby has had 2 weeks off. His first weekend home he set to work planning how to revitalize this great truck. Hubby worked on the wheels and worried that wee one would care about the difference in wheels. I assured him that he will be so happy that his dad fixed the truck for him that he will not care about the particular wheels. Wee one was VERY happy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Some of our handmade Christmas...

Hubby's Maltese Fisherman Hat

Teen's Watch Cap

Hubby got in on the action and made me a Boot Scraper! I am so please:)

Hubby also gave me this water color painting that our friend Lisa painted.

Yes there are still projects to finish. This is a blue felted vest for teen. Only half done. Below is Hubby's half done vest. Last year, I gave bags of yarn to I figure I am way ahead of the game. Although, I still have a whole vest left to make now...go figure!
There are still more handmade gifts to post.....

We had a lovely quiet day on Christmas day. How was your holiday?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sorry for the inconvenience...

But it seems I may have been spammed in comments. So I will be moderating comments for a while until I think the coast is clear...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rejoice in the Light, Revel in the Dark!

This short day, this long night we walk a mile through the woods. In the dark we hear the creak of maples leaning away from the roar of winter wind. A crescent moon dressed in gossamer cloud begs us to wait a few more nights for its blue dance on New Year's eve. I listen to each foot step crunch on snow. Ahead of me, the music of my son's voice sings about sled rides and glasses of milk.

At the end of our journey there is a pot luck feast abundant with sweets, wassail, a bonfire, ceremony and true, good friends.

And in that ceremony our ill wills join a Yule log on the bonfire and turn to embers dancing in the wind. We sing song and bang drums and revel in this yearly ritual of the longest night.

Blessed Be.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I am enjoying...

I've been busy baking sweets and finishing holiday knitting. Today I spend some time with the sewing machine. Wish me luck!

In the meanwhile, I thought I would share some things I am enjoying.

This soup is delicious! I substituted buttercup squash for the pumpkin. I used this easy Garam Masala recipe.

I found this blog very interesting and this article in particular says it all for me.

I am working hard to make this as much of a handmade Christmas as possible. Here are some last minute quick gifts that we are making.

If you are a knitter and have some little kids on your list these hand puppets work up really quick. I can knit one in a couple of evenings. I made them in dish cloth cotton so that they are easy to clean.

Thumbless mittens are being whipped up fast and furiously at my house as well. All the kids in my family are under 5. Trying to get those little thumbs in a mitten thumb and hope that it stays there seems an exercise in futility. So I have been making mittens without thumbs in toddler/preschool sizes. I can make a mitten an evening. I hope to have my own pattern and pictures posted this weekend!

In our house we love to weave pot holders in our house. A few always find their way into Christmas gifts that the kids give. I think that this is a craft not restricted to children. I love to make them too and folks love their sturdy usefulness. You could whip up a whole bag of loops in an evening.

I plan on making a couple of these draft snakes today.

And lastly, I have made several pair of these slippers. They were very fun to make. I can crochet the squares for one slipper in an evening.

Just a reminder that Monday is the last day to mail packages and have them arrive on time.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day!

The phone call came here at 5:15 am. Snow day. Hubby was still 2 hours away. He received a second call on the cell phone at the room he rents in Farmington. He was home by 9:30. With a surprise in tow! (Sorry for the cell phone pic). Hubby has the use of a tuba at the school he teaches at. Every evening we skype and wee one asks hubby to play the tuba. Today, wee one was able to play the tuba. He even got a toot(or is that an oom-pah?) out of it.

The snow had not started to fall till later in the morning; which was plenty of time to take care of a some last minute storm preparations.

The ladies watched on. These are a lovely new ladies.5 semi-retired Romney/Corriedales. We will be sending their fleeces to a mill next summer which we will have processed into roving and yarn that we plan to sell.

The rest of the day was spent stoking the woodstove, knitting, practicing tuba, napping and a little afternoon Sherlock Holmes (my own personal vice:).

For dinner we had simple fare.

Home made tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches with homemade oatmeal raisin bread, and pickled carrots.

We sing an adulterated grace before dining every evening.

Evening has come the board is spread,
Thanks be to the earth who giveth Bread.

Praise the earth for food,


While our voices joined together to share the meal a smaller voice replaced food for snowmen.

Homemade Tomato Soup ( a home preserved treat:)

1 quart chicken stock
1 quart tomato puree
1 quart tomato diced
1 onion chopped
5 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 table spoon dried parsley
Nutritional yeast
Black pepper to taste.

Sautee onions, garlic parsley and dill in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add stock, tomato product. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove cover to reduce soup to desired consistency. Add nutritional yeast and black pepper to taste.

Hope you enjoyed your own snow day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Storm is coming

Our first big storm of the season is expected tomorrow. We are forecasted to get 6-10 inches of snow. Along with the snow will be high winds. Power outages are expected. We have a good to do list today.

Bring snow shovels in from the garage.

Top off any water storage containers. When we lose power, we loose the power to the electric pump in our well.

Bring in anything out in the yard that we do not want covered with snow until spring.

Fill bird feeders.

Bring snow shoes in from the garage.

Check batteries in flash lights and top off oil lamps. Check batteries in emergency radio.

Vacuum rug. Well, okay, not an emergency essential. But with 2 cats, a dog and a 3 year old; the carpet can get nasty quickly.

It has fairly warm for the season but should be getting much colder by the end of the week. It is time to put the extra blankets on the bed.

I'll do some laundry today.

This afternoon we will bring a big pile of firewood. We will also make sure that all the wood is covered well.

Give the sheep extra hay tonight to keep them warm.

Review recipe for homemade hot coco:)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Changing Traditions

This time of year can be hectic and fraught with angst. Even more so if the budget is tighter. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the "perfect" holiday that we lose sight of those values we want to be perfect: time spent with family, the act of giving, charity, observance of traditions. A perfect holiday does not need to be bought with a credit card. The perfect holiday does not need to look like it came from a Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous magazine.

I have been guilty of the pursuing the "perfect" holiday. When I was a single mother, the month of December was a very busy month for me. Usually, I had a second job to pay for the holiday and coming winter expenses. The result of this was time not spent with my older son. There was no time to enjoy a Christmas tree lighting or a Christmas Concert. The result was that by Christmas day I was exhausted. The result was that there was no time to cook a nice meal; instead, it was mostly store bought. That moment at the Christmas tree ,unwrapping presents, was so fleeting and always left me with an anti-climatic sense of the holiday.

As I began to simplify my life and slow down I learned to replace those traditions that required spending money with traditions that engaged the participation of everyone in our home. We spend the beginning of the December focusing on the coming winter season. We begin by making cut paper snowflakes Cost of this craft: FREE. You don't need to buy a fancy book to tell you how to make something you made as a child. We use scrap paper instead of buying white paper. I usually keep the snowflakes up until March when thoughts turn to Spring and gardening

We also make Pinecone Bird Feeders. This activity gets everyone involved. On Sundays in November it is safe to walk in the woods; so we take family walks and hunt for the pinecones we will use for feeders. We use natural feed for our sheep (native oats and corn) and used some cracked corn this year. We hang them outside our windows so that we can watch the bird channel. Lily Cat is very fond of this tradition. We have had downy woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, vireos , tufted titmouse and one day we had 8 bluejays in the yard. We are also planning to string popcorn and cranberries to hang on a hawthorn tree in our yard to feed the birds. Cost of this activity: well, you might have to buy some cheap peanut butter(2.00) and some bird seed but we can get a small bag of bird feed for 2.00. Total 4.00. For the garland, popcorn is still a cheap snack so you can eat it while you are stringing and cranberries are on sale right now for the holidays. So maybe 5.00.

Another activity that we do around here is origami. The other day we made these doves. Some of them are nesting in house plants and a few of them hanging from hooks in windows. You don't need to have special origami paper to do this activity. We used paper with printing on one side and just folded the print side inside. Cost of this activity:Free

Another activity we like to do around here is read all the great Christmas/ winter Christmas books that are available. My favorite is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.The Crafty Crow is doing a book a day with activity for advent this year. There are some great books on her list. Most of our local libraries carry many of these books. Cost of this activity: FREE.

We will be giving some baked goodness to friends and families at the holidays and the kids are always willing to help with this.

I used to put the tree up and get all the decorations up right away. But I found that this just feeds the Christmas machine. As soon as presents appeared under the tree there was an inventory taken. So we wait till the week before the holiday to put our tree up. I used to put all the presents under the tree but when I met my husband ,we melded our traditions. In his family, all the presents would magically appear on Christmas morning. This year we have been talking about whether to have a big "Santa gift" under the tree. We will still do stockings. Our reasoning is that the teen is old enough to know that there are a few specific, practical items he will receive. We just think maybe, while the wee one is young, we can shift the focus from all the Big Things Santa Gives to all the things we can do for each other. We don't visit Santa at the mall. He is aware of Santa. But when there is something he sees that he desires; we don't say, "Wait for Santa", but, "Put it on you wish list." Usually the desire is fleeting, but we don't want any expectation that the big guy is gonna provide.

If there have been expectations of what a holiday should look like it can be hard to shift the focus. But less can be more during the holidays; leaving more time to share memories. During these tough economic times we shouldn't feel shame that we can't do what we did before. What was done before was not sustainable and left many of us in debt. With a little creativity, little or no money new traditions can be brought into your home that truly can provide those perfect moments we strive for this time of year.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I am vaguely aware of hubby leaving for work this morning. I see the light on in the kitchen, hear his puttering. He leaves for the week after a nice five day stretch at home. We were grateful for the time together.

Next to me in bed is the wee one. Heat seeking he snuggles in close, whenever I move he fills in the empty space I leave behind. Outside, rain falls hard on the metal roof. I hear hubby drive off in the car. I laze in bed for a few minutes breathing in the scent of the wee one and listen to his sleepy breath. I climb over his body, get dressed, open the vents on the woodstove and put the kettle on for coffee. In this silence, I listen to the cats get their morning frisk on.

Life was so quiet and content over the last few days that any awareness of what is happening on the 6 o'clock news faded in the background. We feasted, visited with friends, took care of some chores, we gathered in fellowship and we ate turkey in all its incarnations.

This rainy day is a pleasant surprise. Outside plans will have to wait a day. We will cut snowflakes out of paper for our windows today. I will finish up some knitting projects and take care of some chores...

From the other room I hear a sleepy voice call out,"Momma come in here". We take a few minutes to snuggle before beginning the day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stacking wood

Today the weather is warm and sometimes it seems the sun does want to make an appearance. As I write this, the clouds are moving in.

This morning the wee one and I were left to our own devices. Most of our day is geared towards Thursday. Housework needs to be done. Clean the bathroom, clean the kitchen, tidy up our small cluttered home, hang the laundry up on drying racks. Outside is a big pile of wood that hubby chopped this weekend which beckons to be stacked. I would like to get some bread and muffins baked, instead I follow the siren call of the island of wood in the drive.

One morning, I received a call from a farmer friend who knew someone with a couple extra cord of wood that he would be willing to deliver for a 100.00 each. We have our wood up for this winter. Our plan was to get another cord of dried wood for the end of the heating season which would be 220.oo for a cord of dried wood. So 2 cord for less than one seemed like a good deal. It came in 4 foot lengths. Hubby fired up the chainsaw a couple weeks back and cut up half of it.

We bundle up in our "work sweaters" and our "see-me blaze orange hats" and our muck boots. We follow the bleat of sheep to the barn and give them their morning hay. We fill the kindling bucket from kindling we put aside in old feed bags. Then we tackle the wood pile. The wee one is very willing to help out with this chore. Everyone in some way touches this wood before it finds itself piled up next to the stove. Even the Wee one.

With the perspective of having homeschooled one child who is nearly to adulthood, I realize that one of the best lessons to teach the second child, I hope to homeschool, is to let him be my shadow. So today, Wee one is helping me stack wood. He takes the smallest split logs and carries them over to the stacked wood. He climbs upon the wood to be stacked and perches himself like some Wizened old elf. I think, " Who needs a back yard playground? I have a wood pile!" For every 4 logs I take to be stacked he takes one with pride that he is a "good helper". I listen to his chatter about how many small logs he thinks he can carry, which log is a good log, and which way the log should go on the stacked pile. I listen to him count the slats on the pallet that we will make another stack on," one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight." Finally he says, "Mom, this is fun" as he put another log on the stack.

Finally, I can see that his attention is waning and we walk to the mail box, say hello to the sheep. We have made a good dent in the wood pile. I might try to finish it when he lays down for his nap...or I might clean the kitchen.

Maybe he will find mopping the floor fun:)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gettin' into Gratitude

I am Thankful. Yes, I am.

I am thankful for my great kids. They teach me something new each day. I learn from them to slow down and pay attention. I learn to dig deeper into that well of patience sometimes. They remind me to tap into my creativity through their own innate creativity. They provide me a reason for knitting. They lead me to great books. They inspire me to bake cookies.

I am very grateful for my kind, handsome, patient husband. He listens. He is a handy guy. He is reliable. We are never without flow in our conversations. He is a great reader and it is a pleasure to find books for him to read at Christmas time. He looks very fine in a hand knit sweater. He loves me. I love him.

I am grateful for daily vitamins. Yup. I've been taking them for a week now and I feel good. Maybe it is the vitamin D. Maybe it is the change in caffeine consumption. I have cut down to one cup of coffee with a cup of green tea later in the day. I can't control what the neighbors are up to but I can control how I physically react to this situation. Stress is a big no-no for me. My MS reacts to the stress in bad ways. So I am grateful that I had the awareness that I might need a little more physical health support through these tough times.

I am grateful for small moments of peace and stillness. Yesterday was a warm and sunny day. Wee One's nap time coincided with a sunny hour of knitting, tea and lawn chair placed on the south side of our house.

I am thankful for rainy days. Today, I bake bread, applesauce cake and Shepard's Pie for dinner.

I may want to sell my home and find a more friendly neighborhood. But I am grateful for my home. It is small and cozy and was a dream fulfilled. I have learned a lot here. I have learned how to garden a large plot. I have grown many things I have never grown before. I have learned how to tend sheep. I have learned how to cope through a long winter without a coffeeshop on every corner. I have learned how to build a fire, cook on a woodstove. I have learned how to care for pigs and chickens. All this learning has lead hubby and I to dream of being farmers even if that is not in the cards right now.

I am grateful for our sheep. Such gentle creatures ( well except for Rama-a-lama he can get pushy), each with their own personality. They are wooly beasties right now. I look forward to spring shearing because we will be milling their wool and I will be able to knit sweaters for my family with their wool next fall.

Indeed, I am grateful.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And so it goes...

Recent events have me feeling reflective. It is what I do, I guess. I need to take the senseless and have it make make sense. There has to be a lesson in all this , somewhere, I hope.
These last few months have been hard on our family.

Wee one manages to do well during the week. It was a hard transition , at first, when Hubby was gone during the week. But he seems to have settled into the new routine of our week days. One of the things I have managed to do is keep a pretty firm routine to the day. I make sure he is outside as much as possible. We keep a pretty good nap and bed time schedule. We have Story Time at the library and Sunday school, soon winter playtime at a local gym will begin. I am working with him to make Christmas presents. He helps me cook. He helps me hang laundry. ( okay, really, he helps me get exercise by scattering laundry about, but he means well;). Weekends are difficult for him. This is when he expresses his anger toward his Dad being gone for the week. Gotta let him have his feelings. But it is not easy for Dad who misses him. So we are just trying to make sure that he has time alone with Dad each weekend. We reinforce lessons on manners and speaking kindly. But we also have to take time to listen. he tells his Dad, " I miss-ed ya Tad"

Teen is busy. He goes to Portland every other weekend to be with his Dad. He has started his peer leadership program again. He is taking a photography class at Maine College of Art in Portland; so we drive him down on the weekends he is not with his dad. He has volunteered to cook one dinner a week. He tends to the animals, takes care of his chores without complaint. He has begun to babysit his younger brother if I need to go to a town council meeting, or needed to run a quick errand. He is a good kid.

Hubby and I are muddling through. We feel the weekends are too short. We have date nights. We try to make a point to "just be" as a family. But time is so limited to get all the things on that never-ending to-do list done; that many weekends are busy either playing catch-up or putting out a small fires such as fixing a vehicle, patching a leaky roof, or just getting more firewood put up.

I know that Hubby is sad. He worries when the neighbors act up because he can't be here. He misses his family, his bed, his dog. We Skype every night and it has helped but it can't replace his presence at our dinner table, his extra pair of hands after a long day, his adult conversation about the books we are reading.

But I am reassured. As a couple this has been our first big challenge. We've been married for 4 years. There were some growing pains at first but we had never been challenged such as we have been recently. And I think we are doing okay. I am not so bothered by the underwear on the floor as I may have been in the past. Everyone is doing the best they can under the circumstances. And silly as it may seem to this otherwise frugal family we buy a lottery ticket every once in a while just only takes one ticket to win and maybe we could win. We need to daydream about the easy fix, even if there is none.

When this is all over...when we have sold our house, found a new home; when our family can be together, when we have settled and all this struggle, fear, frustration is behind us, perhaps there will be more lessons gleaned from this time in our lives. For now, I am grateful to know that my wee one can express his emotions, that my teen is maturing and a good person and that my marriage is strong...underwear on the floor and all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 where was I..oh yes I remember!

We try to be good people.

We really try.

When we see a neighbor stuck in the snow, we stop to push them free.

When we see a neighbor chase loose livestock down the road, we join in the chase.

A need arises and we are able to contribute, we try to help out where we can. We understand that it sorta works like Karma, it comes back tenfold.

But we find ourselves challenged these days. We find ourselves saying things that are uncharacteristic. We find ourselves reacting out of emotion and fear.

We are weary. We feel under siege. We gain little comfort by small victories, such as a microbus that can now take Hubby to work, because that only means now he can take it two hours away from home. Our family really NEEDS to be together.

Our living situation stinks right now. If it were only a matter of the separation our family is experiencing, we could find ways of coping.

But the boogie man has reared his head and it is ugly. Our neighbor ( and I use this term loosely) sent a letter to all land owners on the private road stating that we had 2 weeks to clear brush on our property along the road or " It will be done". We sent a certified letter, stating very clearly, that he does not have permission to alter our property. We posted "no trespassing" signs along the road frontage. Our signs have been ripped down. We have contacted local law enforcement, town government. This family has been called into the town manager's office and told under no uncertain terms to leave us alone.

Instead, we find lumber thrown into our sheep pasture. Brush cut. More signs ripped down. We find brush cut on our property out of spite. All of this is done under the cover of darkness, while I am home alone.

There are several police patrols of the road at night. But it does not seem to stop them from their mischief.

On Monday, I left early to drive 3 hours to share Hubby's birthday lunch with him. It was a truly glorious day. Dry , warm and sunny. A beautiful day. Perfect sing -at- the- top- of -your- voice music on the radio. Wee one was in the back seat singing songs with me. We shared a great lunch, enjoyed some playground time. When I arrived home I found "bad neighbor" behind the wheel of a back-hoe loader digging up pot holes in the road to repair them. Fine.

Tuesday I had to go pick up teen from his weekend with his Dad. Again, "Bad neighbor"was out there patching the potholes.

At this point I should state that there is a plan, with other land owners on the road, to have the road graded early next week.

Late Tuesday afternoon after dark, "bad neighbor" took his hoe and dug up the side of the road opposite our property. There is a wet land along that side of the road and a wooden culvert that has been working fine for the last 75 years. He pushed all the debris that he dug up and filled in the area where the water drains from the road. There is a pretty good bog still filled with water. The water is now level with the edge of the road where before it was below the road. This is not his property but part of a right- of-way. We have sought legal advice which confirmed that he has rights to ingress and egress only, no right to maintain.

Our concern is that after the snow melts next spring, or after a month of rain ,such as we had this last summer, the road will be in our front yard and in my garden.

Today was day three. Hubby was home for the holiday. Teen and I volunteered at church for a Veteran's day Luncheon. When we got home "bad neighbor" was out there messing around his mess. Loud noise all day, beeping of his machine....

We are weary. We try to be good people. We help out where help is needed but we also just want to be LEFT ALONE. Where before we had to worry about hubby getting home in a snow storm, now we have to worry about where we will be able to get to our driveway when the road is washed out.

We need to gather our friends and community around us. We keep telling ourselves that this is a trial and when we get through this life will be better.

Pray for us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And the winners are....

Your names were written on small pieces of paper. Tossed into a cast iron pot. Picked out of the pot by my gorgeous assistant, the lovely 3 year old wee one. We both agreed that we wished that as he kept picking names out of the pot that we had a give away for everyone.

With further ado...

Theresa you won the Guide to the Good Life.

Rob you won the recipe cards.

Kristina you won the yarn or hat.


My email is Send me your emails and I will have your gifts in the mail by the end of the week.

Thankyou to everyone who commented. I was feeling the love this week. Thanks:)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I just wanna say.....


I started this blog over a year ago. I remember when I decided to start the blog. I was standing in our gully surrounded by the buzz of mosquitos and picking the wild raspberries that have over taken this low spot. It was just one of those moments ...the sun shining, my improvised yogurt container cum berry bucket filling, my enthusiasm for the beauty of the fruit. I felt an inspiration for writing that I hadn't felt in a long time.

I used to write everyday for years. I attended poetry readings and my poems have been published in several small journals. I never finished that English degree. But I love words. Arranging them on the page is play for me.

At one point I just lost the groove. I felt like there was too much navel gazing and all I was finding was lint. I am creative by nature and knitting took over where words left off.

My call to this small parcel of land reawakened writing for me. I have children and finding time for the kind of writing I used to engage in is difficult. But I still write.

Now, I want to address you folks that have decided to follow me, you readers who check in here to see how much food I have put up, you folks that leave comments of encouragement and support. I want to say ThankYou!

I meant to do a giveaway in July around the 1 year blogaversary but life was just a little crazy then.

So I would like to announce a giveaway in three parts.

First Item is a this Book. It is a great introductory primer on living green.

Second item is a collection of my favorite recipes collected on recipe cards. Many of the recipes are simple food, tasty and healthy.

The final item is either something knitted by me such as a hat or mittens or if you would rather knit it yourself I have some lovely Peace Fleece to share.

So here are the specifics: Leave a comment, or message me on facebook ( if you are a friend) by next Tuesday at 8pm ( after the polls close). I will announce winners on Wednesday.

Good Luck!

And again thankyou for reading my blog!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, 26th week

All the leaves have fallen from the trees. And most of them are now mulching my garden. We are still eating kale, rutabaga, parsnips and jerusalem artichokes, a smattering of beet greens from the garden.

Our days have settled into a nice rhythm, with the emphasis being on routine. We wake early, have breakfast, take care of our appointed chores and then tackle any small project we have planned for the day. This may be preparing a sewing project to be sewn when wee one naps, it may be a small craft project that the wee one and I tackle together, it may be one final canning job or any needed baking for the day. Wee one naps and I settle in with some knitting needles. When he wakes from his nap he hangs out with teen while teen takes care of animals and brings in firewood and I clean the kitchen and prepare dinner. Teen cleans up from dinner while I get wee one ready for bed. After bedtime stories and songs, Teen and I enjoy a movie on Netflix and I spend the evening knitting. Bedtime includes a re-reading of the Dark is Rising Series. I read this to the teen years ago and I am enjoying again.

But we miss Hubby.

Weekends have become hectic. Hubby comes home on Friday night. A good dinner awaits him. Saturdays are filled with either getting the teen to Portland for his photography class, or work at crossing off the many things on the to-do list. Sunday we either go to church or have something else fill our day. In the afternoon, I work to get food prepared for hubby to take for the week. I want to make sure that he eats well while he is gone for the week. It also saves us money as he does not have to buy a bunch of "bachelor food" like pizza, mac and cheese and ramen. He leaves with fresh bread, jars of homemade soup, leftovers from our dinners of the weekend and a small treat. Hubby leaves on Sunday night.

Plant: nothing

Harvest: Rutabaga, kale, parsnip, beet greens.

Preserve: nothing but I have some more apples that need to be sauced.

Manage reserves/ prepped: finished knitting wee one's sweater (hope to have pictures this weekend) , raked leaves and used them to mulch the garden, have been working on Handmade Christmas presents, I am contemplating the church Christmas craft fair and will have to get to work on some stuff for that soon. Hubby helped a friend put down their pigs for some bacon that we will get by the end of the week. Went to Marden's, a local salvage store, and found fabric for Halloween Costumes. I found elastic for .25 a yard and picked up a couple of yards.

Local Food: good neighbor gave us some bacon and ham from his pig. I found out about a local beef farmer and we will be filling the freezer with some of their meat., local eggs from local feed store.

Eat the food: Thai spice squash soup. Brown Rice Pilaf with Kale. Baked beans with local bacon, shoulder roast from last years pig, garden peas. Made my first batch of Ginger Beer.

Waste not:more of the usual

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eating the Food

Hubby is bringing home dinner tonight. Sadly, dinner is burritos. What makes burritos sad? Well, our friend Chuck has a burrito shop in Farmington. It has been a life dream of his to have a small business. His menu is simple; burritos or quesadillas, your choices of fillings. I am very partial to the chicken burritos. He has a funky little shop, a great groove to the place, every thing is a "green" as can be managed for food service but there is some serious green missing in the till. So, he is closing the shop before he has too big a hole to dig out of. So sadly, this will be the last burritos from his shop that hubby will bring home.

In the meanwhile, I have a soup simmering on the stove. Tomorrow will be a rainy day and this soup will be our dinner tomorrow night. Which kinda had me thinkin'...

Katie over at Two Frog Home has a personal challenge she has given herself. She will be eating only from food storage, with the only food purchases made consisting of perishables. We were able to manage something similar last year. There were many weeks when we only bought eggs, milk, butter and cheese. We will try to accomplish this again this year.We don't have a pig to fill the freezer this year but the Farmer's Market convenes once a month so we will buy our meat there once a month. Food storage management involves eating the food and replenishing it. After all what is the point of putting up all this food if we are not going to eat it?

So, this is what I am thinking....At the beginning of each week I will post our grocery list. This is more in order to keep me honest. Writing a grocery list and sticking to it helps to keep the grocery budget down. It involves planning as opposed shopping on a whim. At the end of the week I will post our menu for the week. I will follow this challenge from November 1st until March 31. It is my hope to share recipes with you. I also hope that you, kind reader, feel free to share recipes in the comments section.

The soup on the stove is a Thai squash soup. I baked 2 buttercup squash in the oven for an hour. Scooped out the innards into my handy dandy food mill, added 1 quart of chicken stock (from preserving sanity) added one can of coconut milk and about a tablespoon of curry paste, salt to taste and about a cup of unsweetened coconut toasted. I will serve this with a brown rice pilaf of ginger, raisins, apples and kale.

So what's for suppa?


I've shared some heartbreaking stories of local farms struggling in this economic climate. I would like to share some good news. My midwife's kids have bought a farm. These unschooled kids are on a great adventure. If you would like to follow along here is their blog, North Branch Farm.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, 25th week

It is cold this morning. It is not quite thirty degrees at 9 am this morning. A fire is burning in the stove. The tea kettle is at the ready now that the wood stove is warm. I feel like baking. It must be autumn.

I went to Portland this past week. It was a nice break from the country but I love following those rolling hills home; counting cows and finding old granny apple trees by the side of the road. Teen is taking a photography class at the Maine College of Art on the weekends so we took him down for the class. Hubby busked in the Old Port and made enough money for our lunch! After picking up the teen we drove down to Kennebunk and stocked up on toothpaste at Tom's of Maine toothpaste outlet. We made a stop at Old Orchard Beach for a taste of salt air.

And then we stopped by Wendy's for a visit. She has a great place! Lively with ducks, chickens,rabbits and girls! If there is any question whether unschooling works, her daughters are proof positive that it does. While there I marveled at a mask her older daughter made out of cardboard and tp tubes. There was a whole discussion about how the tubes simulate ducks vision because of the way the are oriented. Wendy's gardens are still producing. She does a lot with her quarter acre and serves as a great model of what suburban homesteading should look like. Oh and she has a worthy pile of foraged acorns for flour too!

Planted: not much this week but I was hoping for a warm spell to move more stuff around in the garden.

Harvested: beet greens, kale

Preserved: 7 quarts of apple pie filling, 6 pints of pureed carrots, 6 quarts of chicken stock, 3 quarts 1 pint of pureed tomato, 4 quarts of frozen peppers.

local foods: tour de farm

waste not: more of the same. composting, recycling, making cider vinegar from apple scraps

manage reserves/ prepped: stocked up on toothpaste. Bulk food order which included: molasses, olive oil, canola oil, chocolate chips, kidney beans, elderberry cough syrup, tea, peanut butter, pasta.

Eat the Food: Homemade macaroni and cheese, Rice and bean burritos with homemade tortilla, chicken soup with carrot puree, apple custard pie, homemade yogurt.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tour De Farm, Local Food Systems

I had to head to Dover today to drop off parts for our Micro Bus at the mechanic. On the way there I decided to make a tour de farm.

First stop was a local farmer who has a big trailer loaded with buttercup squash for 50 cents a pound. We had a lousy winter squash year here. There was just too much rain and the heat came too late. All July, while hubby was teaching summer school, I would drive by this farm when driving hubby to his car pool friend. The farmer would be out there every morning in the three large patches with his small rotary tiller that he would push through his rows. I admired his dedication. Now I will admire his squash:)

Next stop was Stutzman's Farm. They will be open for another week. This is my favorite farmstand. They had tomatoes and bell peppers. So I picked up just a few more to can up. I am still trying to decide how I will process the peppers. Maybe dehydrate, or maybe freeze.

Next stop was the mechanic.

After that, we went to the Library. I had the wee one with me and he needed a car break and a book about trucks.

After the library we hit the local general store, Bob's. It is something like an old fashion general store. They carry natural foods and animal feed, seed and garden amendments, kitchen gadgets and some home wares. They try to carry local foods and it is where we get eggs now that we have passed our chickens on to someone else. They had end of season seed on sale there for 10 for a 1.00. I picked up a couple dollars worth. I was thinking that we are still having hard times and some extra seed could be shared with friends and neighbors who find themselves with more time than money on their hands.

Next stop was Tudor Farm. They sell heirloom apples. I picked up a couple of pecks to round out the apple processing bonanza I have planned for Friday.

Last stop was Heartland Farm for some milk that I will be making yogurt and soft cheese with. He also sells apples and will sell me a bushel of apples to keep in our cold room for fresh eating.

I love that I found all this food with in 20 miles of my home!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At Auction

Lewis and Sonja are friends in town who we get our hay from. They used to keep alpaca and dairy goats. This year they scaled down. Their hope was to sell their fiber, and value added goats milk products so that Sonja could stop working at the wood products mill a few towns over. Lewis has some acreage around town that he uses for haying. He sharpens saw blades for local small mills. They found that one commodity missing from the dream of full time farming was time. It is hard to milk goats, go to work, come home, milk goats and then try to make something from the milk before falling into bed.

So they went to auction and sold their herd.

This past weekend they went to auction to get a milk cow. Their thinking was they could have milk for themselves and Sonja could still make soap. It is a lot easier to milk one cow than to milk many goats. They have their own hay, so feed would be cheap for them, relatively speaking.

This is the story they told us when we went to get hay yesterday.

There is a big auction of a dairy farmer's livestock and equipment. Among the items to be auctioned is a 4 year old tractor. Lewis is a bit of a tractor enthusiast. He said that the tractor, brand new, was big money, upwards of 25,000. The tractor sold for 4,500. The dairy industry is in crisis and there is not much call for farming equipment.

He said the farmer's cattle were in bad shape. Many were emaciated. He said that the guy tried to hold on longer than he should have at the expense of feeding his cows. Many of the cows were young and actually sold from any where from 250.00 to 1200.00. Lewis told me that even though some of the cows were thin, because they were young meant that once they were fattened up they would be good milkers. Some of the cows were pregnant. There were several calves.

When Lewis spoke with the farmer he was told that the amount of money raised would not cover even half of the liens he has. Lewis also said that everything the farmer owned was auctioned. EVERYTHING. Furniture, appliances, books....everything.

Lewis and Sonja found their milk cow. They paid 225.00 for her. She was pregnant. The night they brought her home she had a runny nose. The next day it was clear she had a cold. By Monday morning she had died. Sonja and Lewis were out 225.00 but they said that one guy bought ten of the cows. They thought that their cow could have been stressed by all the moving and caught a cold. Or it may have been something more contagious; in which case, the guy who bought the ten cows could have ten dead cows on his hands.

It is easy to not think about where our food comes from. It is always there at the grocery store. Big Factory Farming pushes us further and further away from our food. Afterall, milk is just white stuff in a plastic gallon and it always there on the store shelve. Politics and special interest are so wrapped up in the demise of small family dairy farms.

On another note, if you live in the Northeast please look for Moo Milk. These farmers are trying to make a living. The milk may be a little more expensive. And it should be. We should pay the fair value of the products we consume.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 23rd and 24th week

These autumn days are full. For a while life was on hold. Once we decided to stay in our current arrangement, life in pause became life in play. Wood is stacked. The hay loft is full. The garlic and egyptian onions are planted. Once again I tell myself we live here until we don't.

This moment, these brisk autumn days, it is time to pay attention. And this is what I see; a wooly bear wiggling across soil, its middle orange band an inch wide. Spiders invading the far corners of the house. I'll leave them to weave their winter homes. For now. I see a teenager, nearly a man, reading in a hay loft. I see a boy plowing roads in a sandbox and begging his momma to remove the leaves that have littered his roadway.

I am getting dirty in a good way. I am feeling garden muscles. I am soaking up that vitamin D for all its worth. The days grow short. There is a promise of snow. And we work towards our own hibernation.

Plant: winter rye, garlic, egyptian onions, transplanted blue hollyhocks, yarrow.

Harvested: last of the leeks, rutabaga, last of the onions, kale

Preserved: dehydrated leeks, dill, hubby made a batch of beer.

Manage reserves/ prepared: stacked wood, hay up in the hay loft, unpacked games and picture books. Knitting for Christmas; this has been a week for hats of all sorts. Something nice about circular knitting...round and round and then you have a hat. I am planning on a bulk food order this week.

Local foods: Well, we've kinda blew it with apple season. One week we were too early for picking another week we were too late. We did manage another case of apples ( at a higher price) and I may try another orchard for end of season apples. Hubby is going to pursue a local pork package out in Farmington to put in our freezer. I went to farmers market for local chicken.

Waste not: mucked out goat pen and put it in compost bin, I will try to give it a good turn before the freeze and hope to have it ready for the spring.

Eat the food: Vegetable soup, enchiladas made from local chicken left overs, local chicken dinner with brussel sprouts hubby got a farmer's market. Yum!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dream deferred or a sign of the times. A drive up Route 15

Today is a rainy autumn day. I love these sorts of days this time of year. It is as if Mother Nature is saying, " It's okay, put down the shovel. Go inside, drink tea, knit, bake something sweet, maybe write."

And so I write.

Yesterday was my last day at work at the bookstore. Bittersweet. I loved this little job. I've worked in bookstores off and on for 20 years. But this children's bookstore was the best. I loved the picture books and loved recommending books to preteen boys. I loved that the owner let me bring the wee one with me since he was an infant. I loved that I could knit or read on a slow day. But I need more time with my family.

I left work yesterday afternoon at 4pm and drove straight up route 15. This road ends at Moosehead lake. My stop would be a church fundraiser. But it is long drive from Bangor to Sangerville on Rt 15. Not a wholly unpleasant drive but the road is long, at times, poorly maintained and there are long stretches between town centers. We are far apart in this part of the state. Yesterday was rainy too. The gray clouds really seem to make the color of those red maples pop out; those fading ladies preparing for the crone of winter. Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss is the opera on Public Radio as I drive north. The road winds through Glenburn, Kenduskeag, Corinth; towns that still share their agricultural history in the vast fields and old grange halls that will, maybe, one day, be revived when our world decides to be more local.

Along the way, I pass fields with big, round, wet bales of hay destined to be mulch. This will be a hard winter for many small animal holders. There isn't much hay and what hay there is of marginal quality. The rain delayed the first cut and the second cut couldn't come fast enough. It is one of those things on our to-do list that can't be delayed much longer. The hay loft is empty.

I pass cows loitering at their pasture fence along the road.

I pass flea markets closed for the season.

I pass general stores with gas prices 10 cents more expensive than I paid at the gas station in town. Every penny counts and after the year we've had, I am grateful for small breaks even if it is just a few dollars.

I also pass a lot of homes with For-Sale-by Owner signs in the yard. Which had me reflecting on our own home and any potential sale there may be for it...some day...maybe..hopefully..if ever. For-Sale-By-Owner is one way to come down on your asking price if you don't have to include the realtor commission. But we are not there yet. Patience. Patience.

The road is really rough if spots. I always wonder if all the noises the car makes are creaks and moans from the abuse the road gives our car. I pray, " oh please great god of machines, just keep her going one more winter."

The mind can wander on long stretches of road. Hubby and I had our heads together when he came home on Friday night. We are weary. We struggled with wacky neighbors this year. He found a great new job. We worked hard all summer trying to get the house ready to put on the market. We have abandoned many of the things that we used to enjoy for this move; considering it a sacrifice we had to make to get to Valhalla ( Farmington).We do not like being apart all week. And we don't want the emotion of the separation to cloud the choices we make. So we have decided not to take the off-grid home. These autumn months are the months we need to be getting ready for winter. In the end it became a question of economics. We have one house, we should not have two. We will revisit our living arrangement in the spring but for now we must stack wood.

My car drives in the slow lane going up Charleston Hill past the prison. The wipers are thwoking back and forth and I noticed that the wiper blade will need to be replaced. I will take care of that this week. This would normally be something Hubby would do but , now that he is gone all week I will take care of it.

Coming into Dover the road gets really rough but then I see that there is road construction ahead. A portion of the road is being repaired. I slow. I slow...

I come into this little town. There are not many empty store fronts, but there are a lot of for sale signs on lawns. The local theater is growing a bit. The mill across the road closed last year but the town has bought the building and has plans to generate energy from the mill's dam. But plans take time will tell.

10 more miles and I am at my little church. I am excited to see that there are cars lining Church street and when I enter the sanctuary I am reminded why I love this building. During Sunday mornings the sun lights up its beautiful stained glass windows. But at night, we gather outside our regular fellowship, and join as a community. I join my family for a meal, grateful for this time together.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let the countdown begin!

Today, I harvested another 5 gallons of carrots. I am going to make another 7 quarts of pickled carrots and can some more up for soup carrots. I went down to the basement to gather the needed jars and realized that I have only 18 quarts left for the season.

This is the first time that I have filled every canning jar.

Well, they are not all filled yet. But we are going to pick some apples this week so I will have another 7 quarts of applesauce, and at least a half dozen quarts of apple pie filling. We are going cranberry picking this week. So I anticipate the last of the 5 pint jars to be filled with cranberry sauce.

I used any jars that were chipped for keeping dehydrated stuffs. I still have the last of the onions and leeks to dehydrated. So I will be scrounging around for some kinda containers for those.

Brother can you spare a jar?

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 22nd week

The frost has bitten and the garden is in a sorry state of affairs. There are carrots that still need to be picked. There is a new garden to plan and perennials to transplant, garlic to put in the ground. There is a very long to do list.

Inside there is a mental exercises being played. We live in a 1,000 square foot house. The new home is 786 square house. Eventually, we will add a room or two. But in the meantime, we have to decide what we will need to be comfortable without being crowded. Oh, and the pantry space is half what we have now. I am pondering creating furniture constructed from jars of homemade jam;)

I look at this coming change with some...some... trepidation. Not so much for the lack of amenities but for the paring down of worldly goods. Some of this widdling down is going to be good. Right now there are boxes and boxes of STUFF that I started packing when we knew that we would be moving. We have lived very comfortable with out it all. But some of those boxes are full of books. ( okay most of those boxes are full of books). I will have to go back and sort out the books we can not live without. This will be hard for me. We spent a night at the new home this past week and spent the evening reading to each other. So I will want some books that will be nice to share together as a family. Cookbooks, knitting books, how to books, kids books. And of course for the escapist literature that every doomer should indulge in at times, I will get a new library card.

We will need games, some dvd's to play on the laptop, art's and craft's supplies to keep our preschool creative juices flowing, photographs, hubby's tools, wee one's toys, Teen's toys and books. Oh and yarn:) And I want to bring my sewing machine....

I've been researching small design and so far the best approach I read so far comes from The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. Now granted our new home is sorta in between the Not So Big House and the Tiny House movement, but I think that the essence of Sanaka's approach is what we need to be thinking of. Every inch of the space has to be functional but the whole space should also be comfortable and reflect our lifestyle. Crowded and cluttered is the concern but I think that if we can pare down and think about what we really need and store what we have in a way that is comfortable we should be okay. I also have been prepping the troops for the new mantra in our new home," A place for everything and everything in it's place." Oh and my favorite, "Clean as you go"

Plant: Nope

Harvested: Winter squash, last of the zucchini, leeks, kale,

Preserved: Broccoli Soup, shredded zucchini, veggie stock

prepped: batteries for the flashlights,

waste not: I gave all the really small butternut squash to my neighbor for his pigs.

local foods: not much in this category

eat the food: we are eating mostly from food storage this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Christmas 2009

WARNING!!!! The following post is NOT for family consumption. There are spoilers on this post.

So, I joined Crunchy Chicken's Buy Hand Christmas Challenge. I try to make most of my Christmas presents every year. I am not always successful AND I usually spend a good part of the month of December with cramped fingers and a stressed air about me.

This does not really connote a sense of giving to me.

A few years ago I read an editorial in Interweave Knits about why the editor tried to knit for Christmas. Her reasoning was that anyone could take their credit card for a walk through the mall, but to knit a gift takes a level of thoughtfulness that can not be bought. I know that when I am knitting something for someone I really care about; I am not just thinking about what color or texture of yarn would be the most satisfying to the recipient, but I am also thinking about that person while I am knitting it. I think about how warm they will be. Sometimes a strand of hair gets knitted into the fabric, sometimes my cat Lily weaves her own affection into the object. It is a sort of magic that occurs during the process.

So this year I began in February by joining a group on Ravelry ( if you are a knitter you should really check out this site, so many great FREE knitting patterns to be found). Each month there was a knitting assignment. One month was scarves, hats, pairs of something etc. Anyhow, when I started the Big Green Sweater,all that fell by the wayside but I did make a few things for the wee one. At the time, I had plotted out what I would make for those I want to give gifts too. I have most of the materials and I will not have to buy any more yarn for these projects.

Okay confessional, I have a yarn fetish. I have a substantial yarn stash. Some of it I found at the Goodwill, some a very good friend gave to me from his stash, and some I bought with the money I earned at the bookstore and from my sales of crafted items. But I confess, if today was TEOTWAWKI, I would be set for a LOONNNGG while. That being said, I am always able to make something, and I will not have to buy any yarn for gifts this year.

There are couple of quick knit patterns that I want to work on.

First are these Toasties. I've made a couple of pairs. They are really easy to whip up. I can make a pair in a couple of evenings.

I also want to make a few of these dishtowels. I will also make a dish cloths to go with them. If you want to learn to knit, I recommend starting with one of these projects. They are quick. They combine several elements of knitting without overwhelming the learner. You can find the needles and cotton for about 7.00 at some place like Joanne's or some place like that. Or a Local Yarn Shop can set you up with a finer grade of cotton and get you started on the project.
( FYI Wendy, Central Yarn in Portland carries the Sugar and Creme Cotton, they are really great and will get you started, oh and your girls will enjoy it too;)

I was going to make some handpuppets for the little kids in the family.

I hope to make a vest for the Teen and Hubby. These should take about a week each. No sleeves makes this a project that I know I can get done in time.

My nieces will be getting a new sweater each for Christmas.They are toddlers and this also should take just about a week to do.

I also would like to make my FIL a pair of wool socks. The other men folk in my home will get some wool socks. Teen needs a new hat. And hubby wants one of these hats. This hat looks a little tricky and may have to be presented as yarn in a bag that I promise to finish when life slows down after the holidays.

There are a few non-knitted items that I want to make too.

I plan to give some homemade herbal teas as gifts. A friend used to use little muslin bags for serving bulk tea. I have the needed material for making these bags. I will also include a jar of dried mint to go with the bag.

I want to find a recipe for finger paints for the wee one. I also want to make some lacing cards for him.

I will be sewing a wrap for colored pencils for the teen.

I will be putting together a small photo album of the kids for family members from over the last year.

Some folks will be receiving baked goods. I will be able to enlist the help of the menfolk in the house for this project. On the other hand, I may have to do this on my own. They eat more than they pack;)

Finally, I also resolve to not buy any wrapping paper. I found some Christmas tins at the Goodwill that I will use for some things. I also will sew up fabric bags from scraps of fabric I have at home.

okay... If you peeked you should know that I also LOVE handmade gifts as well...

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 21th week

Well, I have finished the wicked big sweatah'. I make hats, mittens and sweaters on a Singer knitting machine. I sell these garments at craft fairs and at a artisan coop. A man was looking for a custom made sweater similar to the one his father had. I worked out the design and have hand knitted this 48" sweater. If we can get our camera to work I will take a picture of it.

It is a good thing that the sweater is done because I need to work on a few projects for our next church fundraiser . I've also joined Crunchy Chicken's , Buy Hand for Christmas Challenge. I know, I know...this is now the third challenge that I am participating in. There is Sharon's Challenge and Wendy's challenge. But, I've been working towards a mostly handmade Christmas for the last few years. This year, money will be a little tighter for us. I would be knitting for the season anyway. Most of the projects that I have thought about will be small projects. Later today I will post my list and what sorts of things I will be making with any links that I can share.

Well, I still have carrots, squash, some brassicas, plenty of zukes , peppers to harvest from the garden. I also want to get another bunch of apples. There is a wild cranberry bog in our town.I think I will take the kids with me to pick some this week or next. Maybe try cranberry juice, cranberry jelly, dehydrated cranberries.

Plant: nope. The man we are buying the new cabin from has a three year old pile of horse poop he has offfered to us. We are going to try to get up there sometime next week and start prepping a garden space. I will plant my garlic next week.

Harvest: rutabaga, zukes, kale, field pumpkin ( boy are they big and beautiful).

Prepped/ manage reserves: I've been researching Tiny home design. We've been working and planning on things we can do with the new home. We will be going to the Common Ground Fair this weekend and spending a large portion of our time the homesteading/ alternative energy tent. Oh and the FEdco seed tent too!

Local foods: we gave our chickens away to a neighbor so I bought local eggs at the local general goods store.

Eat the food: We've done really well on this. A neighbor brought over a rump roast from the heiffer he grew. I made a roast for dinner one night, served with mash potatoes ( our own home grown) and a kale and apple sautee. The next day I made a beef stew with rutabaga and carrot from our garden.

Waste not: just he usual, composting, eating all of our left overs for lunch, recycling.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


This is a short thankyou to all you kind readers for your encouragement and kind words about our impending change. It is so nice to hear the positive words. My hope for the blog is that our small solar system will allow me to write the posts for this blog and then post them online at the local library. Most libraries in Maine have wireless internet. We definitely plan to document our trials, tribulations and grand successes.


Just breathe...

The season winds down. A slowing clock. Outside the leaves are just dabbed with a hint of aging color. Each night a vigil is held with plastic hovering over early jalapeno peppers and contesca romanesco zuchinni; veggies of warmer climates not accustomed to this short northern summer.

Life is busy. The canners are busy putting the food up that we will rely on for good soups on shorter, much colder days. Each day is a whirlwind full of plans, jobs and chores in the garden, around the wood pile...until...until... equinox, equilbrium...the day light recedes further and further and we find ourselves enveloped in wool.

Autumn, the season of preparation. While we travel through this season we stop for a walk in the woods, a day at the fair, a meal shared with friends, some time around a fire pit. We do this to hold on to the sun. We do this to hold on the heat. We do this to cherish as a fond memory when we find ourselves cozied up around a woodstove in January as a brisk north wind rocks the house with its bitter chill.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 20th week

Ok, I will not let the suspense linger any longer... We have found a place to live which will allow us to be be under the same roof by the time the snow flies. It will also mean that we will be living a dream that Hubby and I have shared since our first date. We are going off grid.

We found a small cabin on a hill in Western Maine with a beautiful view, seven acres and a sturdy, aesthetically pleasing cabin with great southern exposure. It is on a town maintained road. There are several farms on the road and a blueberry barren in the neighborhood. The town itself is nice. There are several organic farms within biking distance. It is a little tiny cabin but it will not take much to make it spacious enough for every one. The catch is no water and and no electricity.....

We are exploring some ideas for some power. We found this plug and play solar system that will provide most of what we need. We have several back-up oil lamps and we will probably find some battery lanterns to hang in the kids rooms. Because the house is on top of a hill we will investigate DIY wind power.

As for water, well, we will dig a well in the spring. WE will hook up our water catchment for use until the snow flies. But we will have to haul water for the winter season. Hubby will get this on his way home from work. We will bathe at the University gymnasium that hubby gets a discount at through his school district. REgular exercise would not be a bad thing either! We have a power washer for small loads of laundry and will take care of larger loads at the laundry mat. All this will be upgraded in the spring. I told a friend about this and she had an interesting take on it. She said," It is just a matter of setting up and refining a system."

There is a gas cookstove and we will bring our woodstove with us. The space is very air tight, so we should be all set with the firewood we have put up for the winter already.

We have a friend that does not have a refrigerator and she lives off grid so we will be exploiting her knowledge to its fullest extent.

The land itself is beautiful. It is fairly open. With seven acres we will be able to get some of our firewood off the land through fall down. There is a stream on the property.

We are doing this through owner financing with very favorable terms. We need time to let our current home and our land sell. We will try to find renters for our home by listing it at the local University. But once everything shakes out....we should own the place outright in 10 years or less.

Hubby and I have both discussed that our feelings about this are mixed with both excitement and understanding of the amount of work that lies ahead of us. We know that it will be challenging this winter. But our family will be under the same roof which should make dealing with any challenge that presents itself easier than our current arrangement. We had investigated very similar situation this past spring but that did not work out and then hubby got the new job. So at first there was a sense of OMG ,do we really want to do this? After all it IS going to be challenging for a while. But then we thought, " Yup, it is going to be challenging, but it is what it is". It is what is would be no matter where we decided to do this. Because we aren't millionaires who can buy the prefect green dream. And we don't want to be. Starting a "homestead" is done in increments. It is a matter of adaptation and refining. It will be a great learning adventure!

I look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Planted: winter rye

Harvested: cabbage, rutabaga, leeks, kale, zukes,

Preserved: corn, dehydrated apples, dehydrated zukes, apple cider vinegar

Managed reserves/ Prepped: 2 dozen canning jars on sale, everything else was at a standstill until we knew what we were going to do about housing.

Reduced waste: a friend gave me her kitchen table. We will use our current table as a desk in the teens bedroom or give it back to my aunt for safe keeping. It is a family table. Saved apple scraps for cider vinegar. We gave some garden scraps to our neighbor who has 4 piggies they are growing.

Local foods: went to local orchard and picked up a case of apples, I joined Wendy's Challenge.

Eat the food: Hubby made Cawl Cannin a potato, leek, local bacon, yummy, yummy soup!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm taking up the Challenge!

Yes I am! I am taking up the great challenge Wendy at Surviving the Suburbs will have for the month of October.

Essentially, for one month I will not step foot in a big box store, or chain store that does not serve JUST my region . I will ONLY shop local. I will confess my lapses on Sunday. I will do this because if I shop at a Home Despot then I contribute to the hardship of my local Hardware store in these tough economic times. I will do this because when I shop local, I may pay a little more but I strengthen my community and my local economy. Sometimes, I get better quality which saves me money in the long run.

This is one step in the move to localization that Kunstler and Jeff Rubin say we must do in order to adapt to depletion of resources. I think this is a great challenge for looking at what sorts of things are available from local retailers.

This weeks IDC update will be available later today. We have big news to share also...soo.. I will build the suspense till later today...

Friday, September 11, 2009

FYI Mainers!

I know that I have a few readers from Maine. I just want to pass on that I was at the Hannaford Grocery store today and they had canning jars on sale for 50% off. I usually buy them second hand but for a dozen pints I paid 4.74!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apple Season and a time for reflection...

My friend, Anne and I ventured to the Orchard yesterday. It was not open for picking yet; but we were able to score a case of early Mac's . With everything that is on the to-do list my hope is to wind up most of the canning in the next week or so; unless some windfall comes our way.

Each year, another skill or recipe is added to the list of methods I use to fill my larder. Each year, my self sufficiency increases. Last year, I made several batches of wine. Following the recipe to the letter, each preparation was an event. This year wine making confidence has built to a point of aptitude and adventure as I explore the wine making of other fruits and combinations of fruits.

This year I have explored the use of several herbs that have just magically appeared in my garden. Mullein has sprouted up all over. I made some garlic and mullein oil for ear aches for this winter. Yarrow has also had quite a year in the garden. I have a tincture of yarrow for wounds and I have dehydrated some for other purposes. The rose hips are plentiful this year and I will make some jelly with it. It will be saved as special jelly this winter when we need an extra boost of Vitamin C on our toast. For many of these preparations I use two books, The Medicine Maker's Handbook by John Green and Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy.

With apple season here, I have a long list of things I want to make. New this year is apple pie filling. I think this would be an easy way to throw together a crisp, pie or extra treat on the oatmeal in the morning. I am also going to try making apple cider vinegar from the scraps of cores and peels. This looks like a great recipe. I would add putting a small label with the date on the jar to help keep track of when your vinegar is mature. I will have several jars going over the next few weeks and I want to keep consistency in the making.

All these skills and recipes reflect an older wisdom of the kitchen that has been lost to the microwave and the instant dinner in a box. It is an exciting to learn and practice and hopefully pass the knowledge on.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 19th week

The end of summer is nigh...ooh sounds so ominous!

September is a busy month around the homestead. Hubby heads back to work, the back-to school routine is finding its way back into our days, there is a long to-do list, there are heaps of food around and most of our dinners are local and from our own homegrown efforts.

This past weekend I hit up the local farmstand. They are not certified organic but they try to use as few interventions as possible. They always sell in quantities for preserving; which is something I was very aware of the other day while there. As I was inquiring about 40lbs of canner tomatoes, I was aware that there several conversations occurring that centered around recipes for preservation. One woman talked about zucchini relish, another about her pickled cauliflower. One woman's pile of produce grew while she discussed that she had not put up anything yet because she had given up on her garden; but that her Labor day weekend would be spent preserving her purchase of that day. I was gifted dill heads for some dilly beans. Every store in the region has a canning jar display. I know more people are putting food up but I think that food preservation has always been a big part of the culture in these parts.

We are awaiting the final word on the home we hope to rent and we are still awaiting approval from the bank and other agencies for rental of our current home. Financially, it will be a little tight be we should manage to cover all our expenses with enough to still put into savings. But we have done the 2 household thing for a week now and everyone is out of sorts. We need to be together as a family.

In the meantime the work of the season continues. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with it all. There are 2 dozen ears of corn to process for the freezer, 5 gallons of carrots and 2 more beds to dig up and process, a bag of beets from the farmer's market to pickle. We did not grow a pig this year, so I need to concentrate on some meat for the freezer soon. I go apple picking this week. My hope is to pick 4 pecks. One peck for dehydrating, one for sauce, one for apple pie filling and one for us to eat. I will pick more in October to have for just eating for the rest of the autumn. This year I am going to try making apple cider vinegar from the apple scraps.

Plant: spinach, beets, winter rye

Harvest: carrots, tomatoes ( gotta toss the rest of the blighted plants), zucchini, mint, sage, yarrow, rutabaga, onions, cilantro, early jalapeno peppers, paprika peppers, basil, kale.

Preserve: pickled carrots, diced tomatoes, tomato puree,tomato salsa, dehydrated mint, dehydrated sage, frozen beans, dilly beans, rhubarb frozen.

Local foods: picked up 40lbs tomatoes, 10 pounds of pole beans, 2 dozen ears of corn, dill heads at the local farmstand. A neighbor gave me some kholrabi and rhubarb from her garden.

Manage reserves/prep: restocked sugar and flour, tidied pantry, mowed lawn and mulched the garden...ugh the weeds have taken over...

reduced waste: gave many bags of outgrown clothing to kholrabi neighbor for her grandson. The no money waste plan is working fabulously.

Eat the food: We are eating the last of the roasts from last year's pig. All the veggies we eat are local and from our own garden. Alas we passed our chickens on to a good neighbor. We did not want our free range roosters to get randy with anyone looking at the house and they were eating the seed I had planted in the garden. Their coop was not "show ready" and was dismantled this summer. They had been living in the barn and roaming free. So we will be buying local eggs until we can have birds again. It is strange, they were the first "homesteady" thing we did when we came out here. Now that they are gone, I miss the scavenger hunt for the eggs. It always felt like a gift when I found one in the coop or barn.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 18th week

The school year has begun. In this house it means that hubby is renting a room ,two hours away, five nights a week, until we can figure the housing thang'.

It also means that the Teen ponders what sorts of things he will like to do this year. This fall he will be taking a photography class at the Maine College of Art's highschool program. If we are where we hope to be by January, he is going to take a stained glass class at a local gallery. He will continue his art classes here until he can't. He will help out with critters, firewood and wee one baby sitting for cash until we get settled. He will read everyday and is contemplating an online course through MIT open courseware. Teen also has the opportunity to hang some of his photos at a friend's Burrito shop.

Wee one will be my shadow in the garden and in the kitchen. We are learning about butterflies and catapillers right now. There is one jar with a chrysalis in it sitting over the kitchen sink. As the weather cools and the season's chore subside, I would like to get crafty with the wee one. I have some ideas for some projects that would be fun. We will also be attending story hour at the library every week and return to the open gym time that we went to last winter, until we are all living under one roof again. At which time, I'll find something else for him that will get him some free play and exercise time with other kids.

And all the while the work of the season continues...

Plant: nothing.

Harvest: cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, kale, carrots, beans, peppers.

Preserve: 5 pints salsa, 7 quarts of chicken soup, 13 quarts of potatoes for homefries,1 quart of dehydrated kale, 1 quart of zucchini.

Prepped/ manage reserves: I found 6 quart jars at the thrift store. Sorted out the wee one's dresser drawers and brought out the long pants and long sleeved shirts. Picked up some sheep mineral from a friend for our critters. I am putting the chicken soup in this category as well. Hubby will be away during the week, so I am going to can up soups that he can eat while away. I also want to keep some soup in the back cupboard for cold and flu season. In case the chief soup cooker is ill;)

Local foods: I went to the farmer's market in Farmington and got some tomatoes to supplement my poor tom harvest. I found out that one farmer will have elderberry this season, I want to make wine,jam, syrup and extract out of it.

Eat the food: chicken soup made from our own bird and veggies from the garden. Last night we had rutabaga and cabbage from the garden with barbecue chicken legs, purchased at the farmer's market. The weather cools and there is alot more baking going on. Yummy!

Reduced waste: We are reducing the waste of money. This week we begin our new money management plan. Because hubby will be away during the week we wanted to make sure that, in essence, two households did not know what the plan was for the week. So we sit down every Saturday evening, plan whatever grocery shopping needs to be done on Sunday. Then, figure how much cash we might need for the week. We opened a new account with a credit union that services both regions, but did not get debit cards. Instead we just use ATM cards. This will prohibit those spontaneous purchases that whittle away at the balance. It seems more intentional for us. It is not really a budget. But I think it will be easier for us to reach our long term goals if we don't nickel and dime the bank account.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some days all you need is a little rain.

There is something about a rainy day in August that always has me turning towards September. Perhaps it is the chill, the need for socks and long pants. Perhaps it is the longing for quieter days spent around the home cooking, drinking a warm cup of tea. More likely, it is the coming season peaking around the corner to see if anyone is paying attention.

Hurricane Dan blew through today. A steady rain beat on the roof all day. On the stove top, a big pot of chicken soup was simmering. Hubby took some time to relax and play his guitar. The boys played together with legos. The elder brother teaching the younger the ways of the lego master. Our cares are still heavy and sometimes dominate discussion; today was no exception. But still, we needed the rain to keep us indoors gathered around a table ....just hanging.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 16th and 17thth week

Well, phew, it is a busy time of the year. We are still trying to figure out our housing for the winter. There are numbers flying everywhere. Some of them not so cheerful. Some downright depressing. It is a sordid story of a bubble that has burst, taking all those folks that did the right thing down with those that tried to get something for nothing. Alas, this too shall pass and we will figure out something.

We have been bitten by blight here. We harvested our potatoes just before we left for vacation; saving the harvest as least. We harvested about 80 pounds of potatoes. But gee, the whole time we were digging them up I was thinking," Just a few more weeks and they would have been so much more." But we will have enough for the winter. The real loss is in the seed. I had been saving my potato seed for the last few years. This past spring we bought 5lbs of seed. We planted about 20 lbs of seed. So about 15 lbs of potatoes from saved seed. Next year we will have to start from scratch and buy much more seed.

The tomatoes have been blighted too. I have trimmed all the leaves off the plants. The fruit looks okay, so I hope to, at least, harvest the toms we have; which is not much. I planted 40 plants, I have harvested 1 red tomato and it is almost September. I asked a farmer at the farmer's market if he could sell me a bushel of "canner" tomatoes. He said that it might be slim pickings and could not be sure he would have any by the next market.

This heat has brought humidity ;which is okay, at least it is heat. But it is going to get autumn-like by the end of the week. Short season. Hope the frost can hold off for another month.

Plant: more spinach

Harvest: Basil, kale, tomato ( just 1), potatoes, paprika peppers, early jalapeno pepper, onions, zuccichini, pole beans, blackberries

Preserve: frozen beans, frozen blueberries, salsa, peach jam, peach wine, dehydrated peaches, blueberry jam, dehydrated dill, dehydrated kale.

Manage reserves/ prep: We hit the duty free shop on our way home from Canada and bought 1 bottle of vodka for herbal tinctures. Strained herbal oils and tinctures. Working on a list for another bulk food order in October. trimmed and re-staked tomatoes.

Eat the food: can one eat too much zucchini?

Local foods: Farmer's market and we bought Ontario peaches when we were in Ontario.